The Islamabad high court has directed the Pakistani government to fill the vacant post of the head of the NCHR.

It comes after the government was accused of deliberately obstructing appointments of the new commission members and chairperson for nearly two years, to prevent accountability for mounting abuses.

Reports suggest the two years in which the NCHR has not functioned have seen a decline in press freedom, and human rights, in the country.

The remit of the NCHR includes conducting independent investigations into human rights abuses, advising the government on human rights issues and legislation, reviewing the government’s implementation of human rights laws, and promoting the issue on the national political agenda.

It was established in 2012, but it took three years for it to begin working properly.
In May 2019 the first term of the commission came to an end, and it fell on the government to oversee the non-political appointment of its new members.
But two years later, no one has been appointed to the watchdog.

An advert for positions on the committee was first placed in May 2019, but then withdrawn without explanation.
Two months later another advert placed, which included a condition that no member of the commission should be more than 65 years old, which was then challenged as illegal.

Pakistan’s human rights minister, Shireen Mazari, has denied that the government was obstructing the watchdog and said it had advertised the NCHR posts again in October 2020.

She reportedly said the delay was due to the failure of the leader of the opposition to approve their recommendations for the posts.